Late rental payments is an unfortunate problem that most landlords will be faced with at some point. If not handled appropriately the situation can quickly escalate, causing frustration. There are steps you can take to resolve and even prevent late payment issues.
1. Set expectations
When your tenant moves in, if you have not used an agent, it is important to discuss with your tenant what you expect in terms of receiving payments. Are you wanting a standing order, or cash? Will you remind your tenant each month or expect the rent to be timely?
Don’t presume they have read the tenancy agreement in detail but check they understand their obligations.
2. Check your records
When you find the rent is late, firstly check your records to confirm the agreed rent payment date and whether there are any relevant clauses in the tenancy agreement. It’s also a good idea to review previous payments to see if this is the first time the tenant has delayed or missed a payment or if it’s a common occurrence.
3. Communicate clearly
Communication is key in every relationship. Before putting anything in writing, maybe a quick phone call to your tenant might clear things up. It may have just been a mistake, but if not, good communication between landlord and tenant can help to make sure late payments can avoided, as you may become aware that a tenant is struggling and get more insight into their situation.
If your tenant is not contactable, it’s time to formalise things. Sending reminders or arrears letters is a crucial first step. This serves two purposes. Firstly, the tenant may have genuinely forgotten to pay their rent or might have assumed that the rent had already been paid (for example due to a banking error) in which case a friendly reminder might resolve the issue. Secondly, a record of reminders shows that you have taken reasonable steps to retrieve the payment. This may be useful evidence if the case goes to court.
The Rentr App has an in-built instant messaging service which helps landlords and tenants contact each other. Messages are saved in the same place as the signed tenancy agreements which is helpful no matter the size of your property portfolio.
4. Keep it professional
It is important to be civil in all correspondence, no matter how frustrating the situation may be. A total breakdown in your relationship with current tenants will complicate things further. Remember to check that you’re using the correct dates and amounts to avoid confusion. It’s very easy to make mistakes or forget details of verbal agreements.
5. Late rent fees or notices
Be careful about demanding late rent fees as they can damage relationships between landlord and tenant. Be mindful of your tenant’s situation. If they are struggling to pay the rent on time, insisting on a late rent payment may exacerbate the situation. However in other cases the potential application of a late rent fee or the suggestion or threat of service notice (where the tenancy agreement allows) may encourage tenants to pay their rent promptly or reduce their arrears.
If you’re managing your tenancies through Rentr, you can set up rent notifications to automatically give your tenants a gentle reminder that the rent is due and so they can record whether or not they have made their payments to you.
6. Know your rights
Eviction should be a last resort and the process can be difficult for both landlord and tenant. It’s important to familiarise yourself with your rights and refresh your memory of the tenancy agreement.
If your tenancy agreement has a break clause (in a fixed term tenancy) or is periodic then you are able to give 2 months notice. If you are in a fixed term tenancy you cannot start the eviction process until the tenant falls two months in arrears or comes to the end of the term. Be aware that if at any point the tenant pays rent then the notice will become void. It’s sometimes better therefore, to wait until any fixed term contract has ended. If the tenant pays persistently late this can add to your grounds for eviction.
7. Be prepared
Tenants can fall behind on their rent through no fault of their own. Unlucky events do happen and it could be that a tenant encounters difficulties at the same time the boiler breaks in another property in your portfolio.
These unplanned problems can have a huge knock on effect on your finances – especially if you have a mortgage to pay. Make sure to plan your finances and keep a pot of money that can tide you over until late payments come in.
For help with our App or advice on payment issues please contact our experienced team on 01926 343999 or firstname.lastname@example.org